Huntsville, TN (2015-05-11) As the county continues to prepare its 2015-2016 fiscal year budget, the county’s Finance Committee opened bids Monday night on numerous items that will affect actual costs in the coming year. While most bids are typically awarded to the lowest (or best) bidder, one bid awarded Monday night to a local vendor created a lot of conversation regarding the blurred line between “buying local” and paying too much for goods and services.
By a 5 to 1 vote with Director of Schools Bill Hall absent, and Commissioner Kenny Chadwell casting the lone dissenting vote, the Scott County Finance Committee voted Monday night to award the county’s janitorial supply contract to a company with the third highest bid received on a cross-section of items widely used by the county.
“We need to try to work with local vendors,” commented Commissioner Ernest Phillips, who made the motion to award the contract to Scott Janitorial, a local company with one employee. “I’m all out for local,” remarked County Mayor Dale Perdue, who seconded the motion to award the contract.
Scott Janitorial was one of four vendors that bid on the contract, which includes everything from non-food items and cleaning supplies to plastic and paper products for all county departments, including the school system. While the contract encompasses thousands of items, the county evaluates bids based on a cross section of products representing some of the most widely used items to establish a base line from costs comparisons.
Of bids received, Ellison Sanitary Supply (Lafollette) had the lowest base bid, $37,746.30. In comparison, Scott Janitorial’s bid was $46,746.33, a difference of roughly $9,000. Bid calculations were based on 10-months of historical purchase data, meaning the annual difference would likely be greater; but cannot be accurately calculated, as costs will be based on actual purchases. The county received two other bids on the contract: 1) American Paper and Twine (Knoxville), $42,453.52; and 2) AVM (Chattanooga), $75,764.97.
Mayor Perdue expressed hope that Scott Janitorial would go back to its suppliers and lower its prices. “Maybe she can go back to her vendors and get better prices,” Perdue commented. Others suggested rejecting the bids and rebidding the contract. “We can’t open it back up,” opined Chairman Mike Slaven. Slaven felt it would be unfair to reopen the bidding process when those involved had already disclosed their prices, which became public record when opened Monday night.
The county doesn’t always award contracts to the lowest bidder. On occasion, bids have been rejected based on previous bidder performance or noncompliance with bid specifications. The county’s financial policies have provided for local advantage when bids were nearly identical, but not when the disparity was so wide. “(In the absence of a nearly identical bid) you need a legitimate reason not to take the low bid,” County Attorney John Beaty opined.
Other bids awarded Monday night included:
Hodgkin’s Oil of Rocky Top, TN was awarded the county’s fuel bid for the coming fiscal year. Hodgkin’s Oil’s markup for service was 0.05 per gallon, which was greater than the markup of the other bidders; however, those vendors’ baseline fuel prices were higher. The other bidders were Petroleum Traders Group (current vendor) and Cary Oil of Cary, NC.
Hot Mix Asphalt
Miller and Son Paving of Oneida was chosen the lowest bidder for hot mix asphalt. Based on the same oil index, Miller and Son was consistently $5 per ton lower on most asphalt products. Rogers Group of Knoxville was the only other bidder.
Rogers Group of Knoxville was the lone bidder for various stone and gravel products.
Secret City Dodge of Oak Ridge was the only bidder on a Jeep Patriot 4WD vehicle for the Assessor of Property’s office. The vehicle cost $20,580, which was less than the budgeted amount of $23,000.
The Finance Committee also opened bids for physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, which were referred to the Scott County Board of Education for award.